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Intravital two-photon imaging: a versatile tool for dissecting the immune system
  1. Taeko Ishii,
  2. Masaru Ishii
  1. Laboratory of Biological Imaging, WPI-Immunology Frontier Research Center, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Masaru Ishii, Laboratory of Biological Imaging, WPI-Immunology Frontier Research Center, Osaka University, 3-1 Yamada-oka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan; mishii{at}


During the past decade, multi-photon or ‘two-photon’ excitation microscopy has launched a new era in the field of biological imaging. The near-infrared excitation laser for two-photon microscopy can penetrate thicker specimens, enabling the visualisation of living cell behaviour deep within tissues and organs without thin sectioning. The minimised photobleaching and toxicity enables the visualisation of live and intact specimens for extended periods. In this brief review, recent findings in intravital two-photon imaging for the physiology and pathology of the immune system are discussed. The immune system configures highly dynamic networks, where many cell types actively travel throughout the body and interact with each other in specific areas. Hence, real-time intravital imaging may be a powerful tool for dissecting the mechanisms of this dynamic system.

The most unique characteristic of the immune system is its highly dynamic nature. A variety of cell types, such as lymphocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs), are continuously circulating throughout the body, migrating through the peripheral tissues and interacting with each other in their respective niches. Conventional methodologies in immunology, such as flow cytometry, cell or tissue culture, biochemistry and histology, have brought tremendous achievement within this field, although the dynamics of immune cells in an entire animal remain less clear.

Technological progress of fluorescence microscopy has enabled us to visualise the intact biological phenomenon that has been uninvestigated. Among the advancements, the recent emergence and prevalence of two-photon, excitation-based, laser microscopy has revolutionised the research field, such that the dynamic behaviour of cells deep inside living organs can be visualised and analysed.

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  • Competing interests None

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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